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These are my scattered notes on some research i've done on developing a way to possibly mine asteroids. What are your thoughts? I'm currently considering how the photon sail can be initially used to go from earth to near the asteroid. The producer of the photon stream would have to have a large amount of mass, for instance, something large like the ISS or small asteroids orbiting our atmosphere. One major flaw is that the "sail" has to always be in direct line of sight of the stream and since planets, space stations, and asteroids all orbit making the photon sail currently unfeasible but this is a mostly hypothetical scenario meant to be food for thought.
Another flaw is the batteries required to supply the current required by these massive lasers would be heavy, and without doing the math i'm guessing will make the laser unfeasible. I also recognize that the batteries will have to be mostly charged before being sent because of how inefficient the conversion of photons to energy is.
An alternative to mining entire asteroids is using small automated robots that use lasers to gradually heat up the selected material in order to extract the material easier.
The laser can be charged using advanced solar panels to convert the concentrated photon stream and ambient photons from the sun into energy. A laser that has approximately 20-40mm scan speed and 50-100watts can rapidly melt gold (And essentially every material include steel, copper, silver, etc) allowing the robots to section out small chunks.
*The robots could potentially extract specific materials by heating the material to their boiling points or in other words refining the materials and disposing of undesired materials. This process can be done with it's own individual robot and then the purified, material can be put back in the capsules to be transported back.
*The robots could use the laser to melt the material straight down, extract the material, extend the laser into the hole and burn to the right or left. The laser can then melt the other 3 corners to release the cube in order to be extracted. This method also means we can accurately control the size of the chunk extracted, however the mechanism that extracts the melted material can easily clog from the cooled material.
The robots can be pushed quickly to these asteroids using the photon "sail" depending on the size of the robot. The concept can be tested using robots a couple inches wide to
extract small amounts of the material. The capsules will be able to use a small ignition in the front of the capsule to slightly alter the course away from the photon stream at the proper degree and can continue adjusting and slowing down the capsule as it gets closer to the asteroid. This is only necessary if we can get the photon stream to line up with the sail the entire way.
We can use multiple capsules that are connected close to the asteroid to use the same mechanism that slowed and adjusted the course after the photon stream to slow the descent when it is landing on the asteroid. They will connect with the mechanism facing down and the robot can detach and look for the material, extract it, then connect back in the large capsule. The original mechanism can launch it off the asteroid.
Look into creating a section of the capsule that can detach and produce the photon stream when the capsule is oriented at earth. The photon stream will push the producer away from the capsule faster than the capsule will accelerate due to the difference in mass, however this potentially won't be a big problem unless the producer crashes. If the producer crashes then we will have to rely on the speed the capsule had already accelerated to prior to the collision. The gap also likely won't decrease the rate the capsule accelerates because the speed of the capsule and producer combined and the distance that the capsule can travel before losing line of sight of the photon stream will never exceed the distance at which the light will travel to the photon sail almost instantly.
The capsule will dock with a rocket/station that can reliable enter earths atmosphere. Because stations have to receive supplies capsules are consistently sent to the stations and a portion of these are run by SpaceX meaning they would be willing to transport the material for financial compensation considering it doesn't require they do anything they aren't already doing for governmental funding.
*Due to the large value to weight ratio gold will be very profitable and won't hinder the controlled reentry of the supply capsule drastically. The weight can also be accounted for if required